Flotsam and Jetsam
Cuatro


4.0
excellent

Review

by Voivod STAFF
April 30th, 2016 | 26 replies


Release Date: 1992 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Criminally underrated, Cuatro is nothing short of a pinnacle for ‘90s (alt) metal.

Throughout the years, many metal musicians have been vocal about how grunge pushed their affairs in the rear, however Seattle natives and Sanctuary band mates Warel Dane and Lenny Rutledge, are by far the most representative examples in that respect. In promotional interviews about the latest Sanctuary album, they confirmed that both communities were treading on parallel paths, in an atmosphere of mutual contempt; however, both were – quote “surreally” – surprised, when their friends from Alice in Chains nailed the Sanctuary classic “Battle Angels” during a rehearsal.

Well, that incident makes sense, since AIC were the most metallic of all grunge outfits; on another note, it’s a clear innuendo that artists from both sides of the fence regarded their counterparts as a source of inspiration, outfits like Flotsam and Jetsam, for instance. The 1990 release of When the Storm Comes Down signified the gradual departure of the Phoenix AZ natives from their late ‘80s tech-thrash metal galore, yet it was the follow-up album Cuatro, in which (alternative) rock and atmospheric metal were seamlessly blended, to excellent effect.

Cuatro’s sound quality is devastating, it is an astonishing achievement, even more when compared to its predecessor, or the crumbling sound of most early ‘90s metal albums. The guitars are heavy and sharp, but at the same time they are granted the needed depth for the development of the atmospheric (yet equally intense) album segments. The same apply for Erik AK’s vocals and the bass work, whose role is prominent through and through. In terms of style, thrash metal is still evident, but Flotsam and Jetsam take some “downright left” turns here, as alternative rock (“The Message” is also credited to Chris Cornell from Soundgarden) has indelibly marked a significant part of the album. What’s more, a genuinely adventurous song writing philosophy has been adopted, different from the tech-thrash triumph of No Place for Disgrace, or everything dubbed as “90s progressive metal”.

The tone of the album is angry and dark. Erik AK’s vocals and masterfully written lyrics play a key part in the said respect, as they revolve through the much sung, yet globally unresolved topics of personal struggles, anti-war disposition and interpersonal disputes. While AK has showed his enormous potential in previous albums, it’s not an exaggeration to claim that his performance in Cuatro, is on the same page with respective deliveries of frontmen like James Hetfield or Phil Anselmo. On their end, the instrumentals do not fall behind one bit; the guitars of Edward Carlson and Michael Gilbert, as well as the rhythm section of Ward and David-Smith, have lent themselves to nothing but the best from metal and alt rock, with the end material awesomely resonating the dirt and revolt of both worlds combined.

Although Cuatro was a major label release, and a token of appreciable promotion from MTV (the excellent videos of “Wading through the Darkness”, and “Swatting at Flies” were often featured in Headbanger’s Ball), it was largely misplaced by fans; too “alt” for metalheads, too “metal” for the alt rock crowd. Nowadays, as more and more bands are doing the alt metal thing, Flotsam and Jetsam’s fourth LP sounds more relevant than it was 20+ years ago. To the defence of the aforementioned argument, it should be noted that in 2008, the Polish label of Metal Mind Records served the album some justice with its 2000-copy limited edition reissue.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Voivod
Staff Reviewer
April 30th 2016


8396 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Swatting at Flies (video) - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nMHdJXHvzTc

Wading Through The Darkness (video) - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=219qVSwzVNw



While we wait for the new Flotsam and Jetsam album...



Constructive criticism is more than welcome.

Digging: Meridian (CHE) - The Seventh Sun

SitarHero
Contributing Reviewer
April 30th 2016


10327 Comments


Sweet review Voivod. I've been meaning to check this out.

KILL
April 30th 2016


81232 Comments


damn was expecting willie to review this

gj bro m/

Robbit
April 30th 2016


70 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I did them play live on that tour and enjoyed a lot of that material. CUATRO did have more of an alternative flair than their prior releases, which made sense for the era. However, Flotsam just seemed to go through an identity crisis from this point forward (for a while) as tried to prove they were more than just a speed metal band. The songs just weren't there to sell their new sound. On this one, I did like "Swatting At Flies". Nicely written, although I'm not sure I'd give it 4 stars myself. Will revisit CUATRO for sure.

ChaoticVortex
April 30th 2016


813 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Well written review and I fully agree with it, this is really underrated. Sure it's not full blown thrash like their first two albums, but it packs a major punch and they certianly did their mid-90's musical transition better then some other bands.

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
April 30th 2016


8396 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks guys.



Flotsam just seemed to go through an identity crisis from this point forward (for a while) as tried to prove they were more than just a speed metal band

Imho, Drift, although it's a great album, it does not seem to have the perfect balance of everything, which characterizes Cuatro. On the other hand, High is a very enjoyable (for me, at least) heavy rock album with well controlled speed metal outbursts.

I will review Drift and High sometime in the future.



I'm not sure I'd give [Cuatro] 4 stars myself

first six songs, "Forget About Heaven", "Are You Willing","Hypodermic Midnight Snack", and "Secret Square" are top shelf material, I don't ever get bored of them.



On another note, I can't seem to recommend similar albums from that era, Cuatro kind of stands on its own.

BlackLlama
April 30th 2016


2178 Comments


Nice. This album keeps up well.

Willie
Moderator
May 2nd 2016


17624 Comments

Album Rating: 4.3

I love this album. It's the first one I ever heard from these guys because they used to play 'Never to Reveal' all the time on the radio. Nice review.

Digging: Borknagar - True North

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
May 2nd 2016


8396 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Me too, saw the video for "Swatting at Flies" on MTV and got the album on tape.

miketunneyiscool123
June 29th 2016


5523 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

This was the best Black Album "imitator" from the 90's imo. The production is perfect, awesome vocals, great lyrics, and packed with great tunes. Killer album.

Willie
Moderator
July 1st 2016


17624 Comments

Album Rating: 4.3

--This was the best Black Album "imitator" from the 90's imo.--

I agree, but The Ritual wasn't too far behind.

miketunneyiscool123
July 1st 2016


5523 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

In all honesty, I feel that several of the Black Album "imitators" were mostly good. Exodus's Force of Habit, Testament's The Ritual, Anthrax's Sound of White Noise, Overkill's I Hear Black, and Megadeth's Countdown To Extinction are all good imo.

Willie
Moderator
July 1st 2016


17624 Comments

Album Rating: 4.3

Yeah. I'm not personally a fan of any of those album except the Testament one. The Anthrax album had 'Only', but I didn't like the rest. The Megadeth album had the title track and Symphony... the others didn't have any songs I really liked.

miketunneyiscool123
July 1st 2016


5523 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

I dig Force of Habit because that was the first Exodus album to get me into them. I actually didn't care for their other stuff that much at the time. It's full of choice cuts imo.



It took me quite some time to listen to SOWN since I was skeptical, but I liked it upon first listen. I liked I Hear Black upon first listen, and Countdown was my first Megadeth album.

Willie
Moderator
July 1st 2016


17624 Comments

Album Rating: 4.3

Which album you hear first seems to make a big difference. The Ritual was my first Testament album and still one of my favorites. This was my first Flotsam albums and one of my favorites, too. But, for Megadeth it was Rust in Peace and Anthrax was Persistence of Time, so their black album follow-ups were letdowns for me.

miketunneyiscool123
July 1st 2016


5523 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Understandable. The black album follow-ups were my first dive into the thrash metal scene along with Slayer because Slayer was the first thrash metal group I fell in love with. I discovered their entire catalog before exploring everything in Metallica's and Megadeth's then Anthrax last (it took me a couple years after diggin' the first two to get into them). I always knew Metallica since I was very young, but I never explored all their work until about 6 years ago and Megadeth about 5. I knew Megadeth about 8 years ago but nevered discovered all their work until a couple years after. After that, my binge into thrash followed.

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
July 17th 2016


8396 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I humbly beg to differ about Cuatro being a Metallica clone.



This has a moody alt rock flair that went along fine with thrash, non-trivial prog rock arrangements and a singer completely exploring his range.



I don't remember Metallica being that diverse.

Willie
Moderator
July 18th 2016


17624 Comments

Album Rating: 4.3

Metallica can't be that diverse. When discussing 'black albums' it's more just that blatant streamlining of a bands' sound that we're talking about. The huge change from previous releases.

LepreCon
July 18th 2016


5459 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Never really crazy about Flotsam bar their first two records, but I remember this being pretty cool too. They just became so bland and unmemorable, plus I really didn't enjoy the redux of No Place last year (or was it the year before?), but their latest took me by surprise last month

Willie
Moderator
July 18th 2016


17624 Comments

Album Rating: 4.3

Yeah, their latest is really good. Probably the 'return to form' that old fans have been looking for since 'No Place For Disgrace'. Although it doesn't sound like any of their other releases, 'The Cold' is an awesome album too and easily Eric A.K.'s best vocal performance.



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